Ride the Grand Canyon Train

Riding the Grand Canyon steam train to and from the gorge is a great way to experience the historical American West. Carrying over 130,000 passengers every year, the restored train provides visitors of all ages with a unique canyon experience.

So what is it like to ride the Grand Canyon train?

Built in 1901 by the Santa Fe Railroad, the Grand Canyon Railway was filled with wealthy passengers until the 1920s, when riders deserted the train in favour of the automobile. The struggling railway shut down in 1968 but was bought and reopened in 1991 and reassigned its passenger carrying duties.

Steam tours from Williams to Grand Canyon Village

The Grand Canyon train begins its journey in Williams, AZ at the Williams Depot. Built in 1908, the depot looks exactly as first appeared; the platform is even the 1908 brick original. Next to the depot is a small train museum that houses a variety of engines and train cars such as the 1923 Harriman coach car.

The train leaves the depot at 10 AM to head north through Kaibab National Forest. The journey to the Grand Canyon will take approximately two hours and 15 minutes, so sit back and relax in the comfortable surroundings of a true 1900s Pullman car. Each train car has been lavishly restored to appear as it did over 100 years ago.

Keep your camera ready for the scenery is priceless. Simply glance out the window to spot a multitude of Western wildlife such as elk, jackrabbits and cottontails. You may even glimpse a bald eagle, black bear or mountain lion.

All the cars serve complimentary soft drinks as it is essential to stay hydrated in the dry desert environment. Some of the upper class cars offer fruit, coffee, pastries and cocktails to their passengers.

The train’s staff is known for being friendly and informative; feel free to ask them about the Old West, the Grand Canyon or the Railway. Entertainment is provided by singing balladeers dressed in period costume who stroll between the train cars. Expect to encounter old fashioned cowboys and even train robbers on your Grand Canyon train ride as actors recreate a Wild West shoot out.

The train’s journey ends at the Grand Canyon Depot in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Built in 1910 out of wooden logs, the depot is one of the very few log stations still in operation. You now have three hours and 15 minutes to enjoy the South Rim of the canyon. Visit the historical El Tovar Hotel, built around the same time as the railway. Take a short one or two hour tour on a tour bus that departs west of the depot or sit down to lunch at the El Tovar, in the Maswik cafeteria or in the Bright Angel Lodge.

You’ll be back in Williams in two hours and 15 minutes after reboarding the Grand Canyon train. Some of the cars offer champagne and appetizers on the way back. If not, you’ll steam back into Williams at 5:45 pm puts you right in time for dinner.